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Parent organization Real Food for Kids (RFFK) aims to improve the nutritional quality of food served at the public schools in Fairfax County, Va. These parents want all students to get healthy, fresh food that will fuel their bodies for physical and educational performance.
As stated on their website: “We know, just as you do, that when a child is well-fed with nutritious, real food, he/she is healthier, better behaved and better able to succeed in and out of the classroom.” By doing research and educating themselves, they discovered the volume and breadth of processed foods and foods with artificial dyes and additives being served at their schools, even though these foods were allowed by USDA nutrition guidelines for school lunches.
The parent group advocated for a new policy—which was implemented in schools for the 2012-2013 academic year—to begin removing foods with artificial dyes, additives, and other highly processed ingredients, and replace these foods with fresh foods.
Their previously 26-ingredient hamburger is now 100% all beef and the pre-packaged quesadillas have been removed from the menu. The process of changing the menu to be full of whole, real foods is gradual however so that students are not overwhelmed with too many changes. Pre-packaged PB&J sandwiches still remain, along with a few other pre-made, processed foods. Some of the new meals being offered were chosen through a cooking competition for high school students at RFFK’s Food Day in 2012. Students created recipes and made samples to offer to judges, to see what healthy meals could be added by student chefs and bring healthier, tastier options to the cafeteria.
The other aspect of this policy that is not yet fully implemented is a plan to bring salad bars to all the schools. By the end of the 2012-2013 school year, only 11 of the 196 schools in the county are expected to have active salad bars, due to concerns regarding food safety and how the salad bars will affect budgets. But overall, the policy has proven successful in removing more than 80% of artificial additives, dyes and preservatives from the school menu.
Although challenges cropped up, the group indicates that the policy is making an impact in their schools, and the group is working to sustain the policy and improve the quality of food in Fairfax County’s public schools. More than 15% of the population in Fairfax County is Hispanic. By offering fresh foods, the schools are making lunch more appealing to students which can help combat the issues of competitive foods and unhealthy snacks. Read more about these changes discussed here or keep up with their new efforts to create a healthier world for students of Fairfax County, Virginia.
By The Numbers
of Latino parents support public funding for afterschool programs